To wonder if this is even legal?

(52 Posts)
SherbetVodka Mon 28-Jan-13 10:21:39

Sorry, this is a dull one about work.

Last week I started a new part time job in a big supermarket (transferred from another store so new to the store but not the company).

They have strict rules about workers not being allowed to carry anything on them during their shift (even a bottle of water is forbidden in case you've added alcohol to it) so you have to put everything in a locker.

Well, when I started last week I was told that they were short of lockers so I didn't have one yet and would have to leave my handbag behind someone's desk in the HR office. I wasn't too happy about that but obviously complied and went to work my shift. Then my manager noticed that I still had my engagement ring on (I never got told to remove it at my old store so forgot to this time). She held out her hand to take it but I said I'd keep it in my pocket.

Anyway, when my shift finished, I went to the HR office to get my bag. When I asked for it, they didn't know what I was talking about and insisted that it must be in the managers office, not theirs. I kept saying no, it's in here and they finally had a look for it and found it. They also said that my manager had left for the day, so I was very glad I hadn't given her my engagement ring to look after as god knows where it would have ended up if they've got such a casual attitude to looking after people's stuff.

So the day before my next shift, I phoned the store and asked if I'd have a locker arranged for when I came in to work. Was told to come in ten mins early and go to HR. When I did, I was told that there were no lockers and that I'd have to leave my bag and coat in the HR office for my entire 9 hour shift as there would be nobody around and the door would be locked.

So I put my lunch in the canteen fridge ( hoping it would still be there when I went for my break) and went to the shop floor then got told by my manager that she'd moved my things to the managers office which is unlocked all day (and unattended much of the time). I asked if I could, in that case, keep my valuables - money, cards, phone, keys - on me as I felt uncomfortable with them being in an office that anyone could access at any time and she said no, that would be a disciplinary offence.

I asked her if she had any idea when more lockers would be available as while I can leave most things at home, I'd really rather not come out without any money or any means of contacting DH or my mum who's looking after my child. She told me that she had no idea, it may not be for some time and that "lots of people are in the same boat".

Well, I understand that lots of other people are in this situation too but that doesn't make it ok, surely?? I feel really uncomfortable about this and am wondering if its even legal for an employer to force its' employees to leave their personal possessions somewhere unsecured and out of (their) view for their entire shift.

I also really, really dislike the implication from my manager that I'm being precious and demanding for minding about it. I was very polite about it, by the way. Probably too passive, if anything. It makes no difference to the situation, I know, but if she'd shown some sympathy or said something like "yeah I know it's shit, I'm sorry, we're trying to get it sorted as soon as we can" then I might not be feeling quite as narked about it as I am. If I was a manager, I'd feel awful if a new employee was left either without access to her things all day or was forced to leave them in an unlocked and unattended room.

It's not just the inconvenience and worry, it feels like a contemptuous way to treat staff. And isn't there a potential issue with something being nicked and then the store being liable for it? That's why I'm wondering if they're acting legally by doing this confused

ResolutelyCheeky Mon 28-Jan-13 11:00:38

Don't risk your job by having money on your person. This is not allowed for the protection of the staff, if there were any theft issues and it was found she would be for the high jump. Not worth it.

The locker situation sucks and HR (who are obviously aware of the problem) should be sorting it out. That is one of their jobs.

I would find out what happens if your things are stolen as am pretty sure they won't be protected by insurance when they are being left in an unlocked room.

That's why I had it in my bra. They couldn't strip search me. I happily emptied pockets and shoes whenever requested.

StanleyLambchop Mon 28-Jan-13 11:06:49

YANBU. It is all very well people saying you are being precious about needing the things in your bag, but even if you leave money/mobile phone behind, what about things like sanitary protection, paracetamol if you are having a stressful headachey day, some people may need inhalers etc. Ok that stuff may not be valuble but I still would not like the idea that my bag was somewhere unattended where anyone could rifle through it. I don't think that is being precious or unreasonable. Is there someone higher you could take this to?

LittleChimneyDroppings Mon 28-Jan-13 11:08:34

My god, they sound like a dreadful company to work for. And they search you? Why the fuck cant you keep your money keys and phone with you?

SherbetVodka Mon 28-Jan-13 11:09:55

Thanks for the replies, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thinks this isn't a fair policy smile

Haven't got a car and get the bus in, so do need to bring some money with me. And, as I said, I really don't want to leave my phone at home as I want to be able to contact DH or my mum when she's looking after DS. I do know that they could contact the store in case of emergency, before anyone says that. But I don't feel comfortable not being able to make contact all day. Fully expecting to be told that I sound entitled and unreasonable for that!

horace yes they do search your shoes! Think my best bet is to hide things in my bra if possible as now that my manager's aware that I'm worried about leaving possessions somewhere unsafe she's bound to get security to search me hmm

kiwi yep that's been my experience too! It's weird how some of the people that are least suited to management end up in those jobs. Maybe they're just the ones who've been there the longest...

SherbetVodka Mon 28-Jan-13 11:12:58

Stanley I had to put 3 tampons in my pocket for my nine hour shift the other day! There was no way I was risking not getting hold of them when needed.

And just thought - if I bring no money in and stash my lunch in the canteen fridge and someone nicks my lunch, then I can't even buy any. Surely that's not right.

KatyTheCleaningLady Mon 28-Jan-13 11:14:46

OK, I can see why you shouldn't keep money on your person.

In my experience working manual/menial jobs, we were always treated like potential thieves. Unfortunately, there were enough thieves around in the ranks that I guess this was somewhat justified.

But, people who have only had white-collar jobs are often shocked when they hear these things. "Really? You have to ask permission to pee? You have to work off the clock for free? They make you pay when a customer walks out without paying?"

I do think its pretty Crap, yes

Most big retail companies search you littlechimney, No money is so that if the tills are dipped whoever has cash on them is the obvious culprit, no phone is so you don't use it on shift, the no keys is just being arsey I think.

My lunch got robbed loads Sherbert, always when it was something nice too! sad A work friend would share hers with me when mine was pinched and I'd do the same for her. Not the best solution, but one of a sort. I really would just keep a bit of emergency cash in your bra.

SherbetVodka Mon 28-Jan-13 11:24:27

people who have only had white-collar jobs are often shocked when they hear these things. "Really? You have to ask permission to pee? You have to work off the clock for free? They make you pay when a customer walks out without paying?"

Yy Katy! Some of the policies are just insulting. I think the one about not being allowed to have a drink with you because you can't be trusted not to spike it with alcohol is one of the worst. And on a four hour shift with no breaks, you get really thirsty.

Rockchick1984 Mon 28-Jan-13 11:24:28

Agree that it sounds pretty crap to be honest, but (as someone who has worked in retail for many years) I've never worked anywhere that provided lockers - we were always told simply not to bring valuables to work as they had to be left in the staff room at all times. Why do you need to take your mobile to work? I understand that you like having it, but it's not essential is it? Surely there's other people on the same shift as you who would put your bus fare in their locker?

It sounds annoying but if there is more staff than lockers then there's not a lot you can do except manage your own expectations - policies are presumably set by head office re taking personal items onto shop floor so your manager can't override that!

BertieBotts Mon 28-Jan-13 11:31:28

I've worked in two shops and have never been subject to so many rules. No cash on the shop floor - fine and understandable.

Having to take your engagement ring off shock and not being allowed a drink is awful. We're currently not allowed drinks on the shop floor because the manager for fed up of abandoned bottles, but we have a water machine and we're allowed to go out the back to the toilet and a drink if we want to.

I guess security must be tighter because it's a big shop, but it sounds miserable to me.

SherbetVodka Mon 28-Jan-13 11:40:40

rockchick the starts and finishes of shifts are staggered so nobody else is starting or finishing at the same time as me. I'm brand new there so I wouldn't blame my new colleagues for not wanting to give me their locker key until they've known me longer than a few days.

I know my manager can't override store policy re bringing personal belongings on to the shop floor. My issue is that I'm expected to leave them either somewhere unsecured, where they're at risk of being stolen. If they were in a locked cupboard, I wouldn't mind as much.

Have already explained why I'd feel happier having my phone in my bag than left at home. I'm aware that some people will think its unreasonable for someone to want to bring a phone, purse, keys and so on to work with them. I personally don't agree with this and think its unfair for staff to be inconvenienced in this way, no matter where they work but that's another issue smile

BiddyPop Mon 28-Jan-13 12:55:52

Could you wear something like a travel belt or around the neck holder (the security kind that go under your clothes) to carry a cuople of cards and small bit of cash, maybe phone if it would fit too? Put house and/or car key on a chain around your neck under uniform? And rings too? And then just leave coat in whatever area they have for storing clothing etc.

As a compromise until a locker is available?

Sorry can't help on legalities

BiddyPop Mon 28-Jan-13 12:59:17

OK just read page 2 and understand the no cash bit - does your bus accept any prepaid tickets? So you could keep a cash card (to access cash if you needed it) and a pre-paid bus ticket in travel wallet thingy at least?

ImperialBlether Mon 28-Jan-13 13:13:56

For god's sake, who are these people who think the OP shouldn't take anything to work with her? Why shouldn't she be able to use her phone going to and coming back from work?

OP, as some others said, don't even think about putting your money in your bra. That would look very suspicious.

I would take an envelope that was big enough for my belongings and write my name on it and ask the HR person to put it into her drawer.

The Health and Safety at Work Act states that organisations must supply employees with water ie from a water fountain. Does your employer do this?

Startail Mon 28-Jan-13 13:27:27

Personally I'd stick my cash point card in my bra, as there is no way I could be accused of stealing that and my car key.

I'd happily put tampons in my pocket as I'm almost certainly less embarrassable than the security guard.

Totally ridiculous rules.

ImperialBlether Mon 28-Jan-13 13:36:17

But that means she'd have to take cash out every day.

catladycourtney1 Mon 28-Jan-13 13:58:31

I had this problem, also working for a big (ish) supermarket. When I started, I wasn't allocated a locker (even though nearly everyone I started with was, I wonder how they decide who is worthy and who isn't?) and was told to leave my bag in the personnel office for safekeeping. After my shift (finishing at store closing time), I went to collect my bag and found that whoever was in personnel had gone home hours ago, leaving my bag locked in the office. So, not knowing anyone, I had to ask about ten people who I should ask for help, and in the end the checkout manager managed to open the door for me. But she was already late leaving and looked very put out. This happened a few more times before I was given a locker, and the more I think about it, the more I think that I could have been anybody! They didn't check that the bag was my bag.

I did lose my locker key for a couple of weeks after I'd been there a while, and I stashed my phone and cash in my bra and left my bag on top of my locker rather than go through all that again. But I wouldn't recommend that in case you do get searched. Maybe your phone and cash card, as has been suggested, and your key? Can you get a daily or weekly bus ticket and just keep that on you, rather than cash? I would never go to work without my phone, even if you don't have to be contactable in case there's a problem with your kids or something, you never know when you might need it. Your bus could crash, you could be attacked, you might need to ring a taxi... etc etc. It's unlikely but if it happened, you'd wish you had it.

MinnesotaNice Mon 28-Jan-13 14:11:24

GOOD GOD, this is insane! My mom has worked a large supermarket chain for 10+ years in the US. I have never heard of so many ridiculous rules. Generally her only complaint is that they will sometimes restrict when the employees are allowed to take vacation, but even then, they are generally flexible if they can be. I do know she isn't supposed to have a cell phone on her, but I have never heard of someone being searched! I don't think they could to be honest. If theft was suspected, the police would be called.

I work for a retailer and they are generally very security conscious, mainly due to the unfortunately high levels of staff theft. Please don't hide any cash on yourself - whilst they can't search your bra if you put a note in there, if it happened to fall out you would be subject to an investigation and probably suspended.

It IS their job to sort a locker for you. Are there just not enough or are there a few out of action? They either need to get more or fix those they've got. I agree you should speak to your manager again and potentially the store security or loss prevention manager for help.

In the meantime I would suggest bringing the minimum personal belongings to work and asking to seal any valuables, phone, money etc in an envelope which you sign across the seal. There should be a lockable filing cabinet somewhere they could put it in until you go home.

It's an unfortunate byproduct of big shops which have a lot of staff but relatively small back office space. They just don't think about the practicalities of stuff like this because they need maximum shop floor space to make money.

catladycourtney1 Mon 28-Jan-13 14:50:07

Minnesota Yeah they do that here too, or at least in the company I worked for. We weren't allowed to take annual leave in December or the beginning of January, and certain employees would book summer weeks off literally years in advance, so nobody else stood a chance. They were really rubbish about sick leave too, it was unpaid and they seemed to assume everyone was hungover if they were ill.

I had my bag and my pockets searched a few times, never shoes or anything but I think checkout staff might have.

aufaniae Mon 28-Jan-13 14:52:18

I would start looking for a different job tbh.

I know this won't help in the short term, but it's a terrible way to treat people.

As an aside, I've noticed that the staff in Asda always seem much happier and keen to help that Tescos. Bet this is to do with better management and more empowered staff.

SherbetVodka Mon 28-Jan-13 16:37:13

Well, I've checked the employees handbook and it says that you will be provided with a locker when you start work there and that the store takes no responsibility for loss or damage to personal items. I'm not really sure if that disclaimer still holds if you haven't been provided with a locker. Probably does confused

Have also phoned the company helpline where you can report issues like policy breaches, bullying etc in confidence. Of course my locker concerns don't begin to compare with those more serious issues but I was hoping they could tell me whether its the store's duty to provide a locker or make sure my stuff's safe. They said they weren't sure and advised me to report it to the store manager if HR weren't being helpful.

Won't be doing that as that will be a sure way to come across as a trouble maker, especially as a new employee... Will try the sealed envelope thing (thanks Gozer) and just hope nobody pinches my lunch!

Thanks everyone, v grateful for all the advice, ideas and sympathy smile And sorry to hear this has happened to others, it's crap isn't it Courtney?

catladycourtney1 Mon 28-Jan-13 19:00:33

It is! I can understand the no cash rule, but sometimes, especially if you've got children (which lot of people do), you could really do with having your phone on you. There are always other staff and supervisors around, so it's not like you could take the piss with it.

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